Ahead of International Women’s Day, the Women’s Safety Accelerator Fund (WSAF) convened a webinar on ‘Gender Equality for a Safe and Empowered Workplace for Women in the tea gardens.’

The theme is aligned with the UN Women’s global theme Gender Equality today for a sustainable tomorrow. The deliberations and discussions explored ways of leveraging the potential of women’s leadership in the tea gardens, building strategic collaborations to reinforce commitments of Government and Tea Producers and amplify action towards creating safe and empowering workplaces for women workers in the tea gardens.

Women in tea are the largest unionised women workforce in the world. The speakers highlighted to have a coordinated and concerted effort amongst different stakeholders for bringing a paradigm shift for ensuring women safety in the tea gardens.

The opening remark was given by Nayantara Palchoudhury, Chairperson, Indian Tea Association (ITA). She complimented the achievements of women in the tea gardens at all levels. She emphasised the role of Mother’s Club in the tea gardens as an important institution to mobilise for bringing gender equality and social change. She also specified on sustainable solutions with effective action for safeguarding women’s rights. Sandip Ghosh, Secretary, ITA, highlighted initiatives taken by the Association in tea gardens by investing on enhanced nutrition which has brought in large scale behaviour change. This indirectly has addressed many of the fundamental gender bias and discrimination in the tea communities.

Dr Nazrana Ahmed, Director of Ahmed Tea Company, and former Chairperson of Assam Tea Planters’ Association spoke about role of all stakeholders to work towards the seventeen Sustainable goals as per UN agenda 2030. The SDG Goal 5 on Gender Equality remains a worst performing goal in Assam.

Shweta Sharma from UNICEF and Anshu Shukla from Amalgamated Plantations stressed upon attitude and behaviour change amongst adolescents as change agents is critical. A lot can be achieved by creating greater synergy between multiple stakeholders.

Prof Polly Vauquline, HoD of Dept of Women’s Studies, spoke about the importance of women’s representation in the Tea Estates at all levels which requires a shift from the patriarchal mindset. Out of 800+ tea estates in Assam only one garden has a woman as manager. This was supported by Malakar from Tea Board in her suggestions as way ahead.

In the concluding speech Mukesh Ch Sahu, Principal Secretary to the GoA, Dept of Social Welfare spoke about high prevalence of anaemia amongst women, child marriage, women trafficking, alcohol addiction linked to high domestic violence as key hazards of women in tea gardens. These require convergent and concerted effort of all stakeholders at the local level. He expressed Social Welfare Department’s commitments towards collaborating with different stakeholders and groups working on these issues in the tea gardens.

Ms Manisha Majumdar of WSAF moderated the webinar.

Also read | Assam: Women in Government Conclave in Cotton Uni on March 7-8

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